Connecticut…a heritage… (revised & updated)

I am a former resident of the State of Connecticut. It is a state with a very unique heritage.  Many great names, (though sadly, a few are defunct or merely names owned by foreign conglomerates).  However, there is a lot of firearm history in the Connecticut River Valley, many great names including Colt, Marlin, Winchester.

Connecticut firearm manufacturers:

Colt Firearms (Hartford, CT)
Marlin Firearms (North Haven, CT)
O.F. Mossberg and Sons (North Haven, CT)
Sturm, Ruger and Company (Southport, CT)
Remington Arms Company / Union Metallic Cartridge Company ( Bridgeport, CT)
Winchester Ammunition (New Haven, CT)
Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company
Smith & Wesson (is just over the board in Springfield, Mass)

Even the NSSF is in Connecticut
National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) (Newton, CT)

A recent post on Say Uncle encouraged me to revise, update and re-publish this post. He inquired why companies like Remington endure in such anti-gun states as New York. It’s hard to grasp the answer.  Yes, there is a fair amount of undertaking to relocate a factory. But this is done all the time.  And infact many companies have moved their factories (Ruger moved a lot of production to Arizona and New Hampshire), but some still retain their corporate headquarters in Connecticut.

I think in order to understand this reticence in departing Connecticut one must look at the history.  Let’s start with Eli Whitney, sure he is most famed for the invention of the cotton gin, but he was instrumental in the firearm industry.  Standardizing parts for mass assembly.  Prior it was common for one maker to construct an entire rifle, fitting each part. Eli Whitney structured his business around the parts, being made to an exacting specification so that they could fit together with any production units. Beyond the immediate tangible benefits in production, there is an added advantage in that field repairs are much easier when you can salvage parts from two broken muskets to fashion a single working one.

First contract of Eli Whitney as a firearms manufacturer, 1786. Signed by Oliver Wolcott, Secretary of the Treasury. (Courtesy of Wikipedia/WikiCommons)

The first pistol factory in the U.S. was constructed in Connecticut (and a couple others followed within the same year or so.

“In 1810, Oliver Bidwell built the first pistol factory in the United States on the Pameacha River in Middletown, winning a contract with the United States War Department for handmade pistols.”

“By 1904, Connecticut’s firearms industry was producing four-fifths of the ammunition and more than one-fourth of the total value of all firearms manufactured by nongovernment factories in the US.”

Think about 80% of all ammunition came from Connecticut.  And 25% of all firearms.  That’s why I advocate that there is really no place in the nation, and perhaps no place in the world that has quite the firearm history an legacy as the Connecticut River Valley. (Note, Italy with it’s very long firearm history, probably has the best competing argument. )

In fact, Connecticut has born the nickname “the arsenal of democracy.”

Yes, it’s very bittersweet when you compare the history with the present day status of the region. 


UPDATE: Great photos of a few Connecticut River Valley firearm manufacturing facilities courtesy of the Boston Globe.


Marlin Shutting down Connecticut Factory

Per the Shooting Wire, Marlin Firearms will be closing it’s manufacturing facility in North Haven, CT.

Growing up my father had two firearms. A Ruger Security-Six and a Marlin .22, both of which were Connecticut companies.  In fact, there might not be any place in the world as richly steeped in firearm manufacturing as the Connecticut River Valley.

It is always sad to see smaller companies with long legacies be gobbled up by corporate entities.  Some would say “It’s just capitalism!”, but it’s really not.  There are so many tax breaks and loopholes a larger corporation receives that a small family owned business just cannot access. It puts the small/medium, non-corporate business on a very challenging business field.

I hope Marlin will remain a high quality product. But it is sad to see it lose it’s identity.  I spent much of my youth in New Haven, Connecticut. I worked in the former Winchester factory complex, after it had been converted to business space.

I think we are entering an era in the firearms industry which is very similar to the automotive industry several decades ago.  When all the founders, and their families are gone – and the industry is not just ruled, but completely filled with big corporations.

It’s my hope that smaller, independent companies like Ruger will continue and not be gobbled up by monstrous consolidating corporations.

Published in: on March 30, 2010 at 7:19 am  Leave a Comment  
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